Hjem 737 Cockpit project Cockpit related Advices for builder noobs
Advices for builder noobs Print E-mail
Written by Vidar Fagerjord   
Thursday, 24 May 2012 18:10

So you're hooked? Want to start building? You probably should read this. Or not.

The Dream.

NOTAM: This article is based on my own experiences. I am building a 737-800, and the text are based on that.

You have been fascinated by flight for years - perhaps decades. You've logged at least a few hours in the flight simulator software (it's NOT a game, don't get me started!!) and have some knowledge on how to use an airplane. Then you come across something like this:

"Wait, that's not a real plane!" you think. And you're right. Some lunatics out there actually build full-scale replicas of a commercial cockpit! You want? I bet!

You start doing some research. Read a few webpages and forum threads where some poor bloke tells where his (because no women are building a 'pit that I know of...) lunch money are going. And you get more and more intrigued. Could this be something you want to do?

You poor soul!

Here's a great tip for you:

Make a folder dedicated to your project. Make folders inside categorized by name. Save all your info there.

Here's an example:

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  • Vidar's 737-800
    • Real images
    • Other sim images
    • Detail images
      • Main instrument panel
      • Overhead
    • Measurements
      • Main instrument panel
      • Flight deck
    • Building ideas
    • Misc. info

When you're building, take a lot of photos. This serves as documentation for yourself later on - and can be used extensively as bragging material on the forums!

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Hook, line and sinker!

Or: you are an inclined plane, wrapped helixly around an axis. Screwed. (Watch "The Big Bang Theory". It's great!)

Building a cockpit is the order of the day. You start thinking about which aircraft, what you want to do - and you get the first clues that this is expensive. E.X.P.E.N.S.I.V.E!

"But if I do this instead of that, and buy those thingamabobs instead of these doo-daah's, I could save a lot of dough!" You post that question in a forum. And we old-timers, having heard that foolish hope more often than we care to think of, reply with a bucket of cold, chilling ice cubes down your spine. "Sure, but if you do that - you'll end up spending twice as much time and probably the same amount of money as if you followed our advice in the first run".

Some people can take that. Some realizes that the dream will have to remain a dream. Some realizes that the dream needs to be scaled down. And the last fools actually becomes aggravated and offensive, and get mad because they don't get the answer they want.

So what do YOU do? It's up to you, but do NOT bite the hands that feeds you information. I will GLADLY share any knowledge I have with you, but if you act like a jerk - leave me alone.

The first step

Easy. Decide which aircraft you want to build. Sure, a 747 is cool - Big, Heavy and capable of intercontinental flights. But - do you have the room for it? Do you really WANT to spend 10-11 hours in your cockpit sitting there and watching scenery glide past you, occasionally checking the different instruments? Or do you enjoy short hauls the most? Perhaps you love to yank the Cessna out and go VFR?

And again: do you have the necessary space? A 747 is BIG. And I'm only talking about the cockpit here. It is about 3.4 meters wide, 2.5 meters in depth and 2 meters in height. And then you'll need room for projector screens, computers...

The 737 is smaller, but you still need a lot of real estate - almost as much as a 747!

Available space - which kind of flights - which aircraft do you like the most? Essential questions.

Moving on

Okay, so you have decided that an airliner is what you want. Boeing, Airbus or perhaps a Learjet? A 737 or an A340? The answer is as complex as it is simple. If you have access to a fully stocked workshop with all kinds of cool toys (tools), you can do anything. BUT - I would recommend that you go for the most common birds. Because if you build a 737, there's a LOT of companies offering the parts you need. The Boeing 737 series are the worlds most successful aircraft, with several thousands flying all over the world every day. And a lot of the earlier ones are frequently scrapped. And a lot of 737 parts are available for us simmers after they have reached the end of their service life. Several companies have discovered the big market simbuilding has become. Gooodie!

When you have decided which tin can you want to build, the process really kicks off. You start collecting information, advices, you spend hundreds of hours reading blogs, websites and forum threads. You discuss the correct RAL code for the paint, the exact dimensions on the TOGA switch on the TQ down to an octameter - you obsess over how you are going to build the rudder pedals.

TAKE A CHILL PILL, DUDE!

We all have been there. And we all are visiting that place over and over again. Details. Exact dimensions. Money.

You read the last word, right? Money. Let me tell you right now: you will NOT get airborne in your simulator before you have spent a few paychecks. Unless you want a cheap cockpit and if you aren't obsessed by replicating a cockpit as close to the real thing as you can. If so, you are both SMART and LUCKY! Trust me on this one!

When dream becomes reality

The first parts have arrived. You start building. And after a lot of time and money, you take to the skies in something that start to look like a cockpit. You raise the gears with a lever, switch on the landing lights with a real switch - the keyboard isn't used as much anymore.

The dream is becoming a reality! Congratulations! And if you are lucky enough, you enjoy gathering parts and slowly - S.L.O.W.L.Y. - getting your sim to look more and more real. Years go by, and your cockpit gets more and more advanced.

You perhaps started with this:

and the sim now looks close to this:

Exciting thought, isn't it? By the way, that is NOT my cockpit. FAR from it.

So how should i do this?

As I mentioned earlier, the first step is to decide on the aircraft model. But where exactly do you begin?

Easy. The dashboard and the glare shield section. Why?

Because the glare shield will help you a LOT on dimensions and angles. It is the centerpiece in your simulator. And all the vital instruments are placed there. The PFD (Primary Flight Display), the ND (Navigation Display). The gear lever. The glare shield houses the auto pilot control panel (MCP and EFIS).

In my not-so-humble opinion, you should get a MIP of very high quality. My personal recommendation for a 737 is the Flightdeck Solutions MIP and Glare shield package. The reason is simple: the panels has the backlighting integrated. The quality is superb and it is easy to set up.

And this brings me to another very important factor: You should be able to fly your sim from the get go!

If you can fly your sim, you will get inspiration and motivation to continue.

The MIP, Glare - and of course the software. You probably need some external software for all the instruments and the logics (the software that controls when the gear annunciators should light up).

But this does cost a lot of money!

Yeah, that is a fact I did not try to hide from you.

If this fact scares you, you might want to reconsider. Maybe not the whole simbuild idea, but perhaps the aircraft you want to build.

OR: the level of realism you can/are able to achieve.

Believe me, you can have just as much fun in a big cardboard box with a few screens. Sure, it does not look real. But it is still fun! It's up to YOU.

So, what level of realism do you want? How much money do you want to spend on this?

If you want your 'pit to look like a real cockpit, it is going to cost you about as much as a small car. But if you are okay with less realism, you can get a cockpit for a fraction of that cost. Still expensive, but you might be able to eat meat every now and then.

So - what do I do?

It is up to you. You've been warned. A very important fact that you need to remember: this is a HOBBY! Enjoy it, don't let it be a nuisance. If that should happen, stop.

Expensive. Yeah. But that can be said about EVERY SINGLE HOBBY ACTIVITY OUT THERE! On my MIP alone, I spent about half of the money needed for a R/C aircraft jet engine. My overhead with all the bells and whistles) costs about the same as that jet engine. And I do not risk putting my sim in a nosedive into the ground and destruction... Besides all that, you don't need to spend all the money at once. A screw here, a switch there...

Measurements. Good grief, the measurements! We all are OBSESSED with them. Do you want in on a secret? It doesn't matter. 1445 or 1447 millimeters? Doesn't matter. Try to be as accurate as you can, but the actual angle on the side windows does not need to be a perfect replica of the real deal. The overhang of the glare shield can vary within a centimeter or two. Who's going to notice? If someone enters my cockpit with a tape measure and starts giving me crap about "not realistic", that person will be tossed out the door without regards to whether the door is open or not!

Have FUN doing this! Because it IS fun. Not only do you get a BIG toy to play with (the difference between a boy and a man is the price tag on the toys), but you will learn a lot of useful stuff!

And the most fun part? Something YOU built with YOUR hands and YOUR knowledge, actually work. You flip a switch, which you installed in the overhead panel and soldered to wires you connected to the interface board which you connected to the computer where you installed and configured the interface software which sends the command to the flight simulator software to turn on the landing lights!

Achievement. Mastering technology. Learning skills you never would learn otherwise. Being more self-supported in your daily life (installing those fog lights on your car becomes boring and routine, even though you have never done it before).

Friends around the world!

Yep, you will get in touch with people from all around the globe! You'll get to know people from other countries, cities - and perhaps you will visit them some time? Imagine traveling to a foreign country, arriving at an airport - and having someone greet you with "Bob, is that you?". Invaluable!

I've been contacted by people from all over. USA, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Spain, India, Australia, Russia, England... And I've received a few phone calls at strange hours as well. And I do not mind (but PLEASE check the local time here in Norway before you call!).

Now let me give you a task that you must fulfill. If you read this, you are obliged to do so.

Live after my own motto:

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If in your hobby you do care,

all your info you should share!

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Sharing is caring! I bet you've got a LOT of help from my website. Now do others the same favor: share!

And I urge you to make sure any image you post online remains online. If the discussion board / forum you use has an upload feature, use it. Or do as I do: get your own domain where the info will be available for the foreseeable future. Eventually, the info on these pages will be obsolete. But until that time, I promise you I'll keep all the info right here.

Let me leave you with a few words of wisdom:

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"There is a fine line between hobby and insanity!"

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That line has become a dot to me...

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Cheers!

- Vidar -

Last Updated on Friday, 04 September 2015 22:58
 
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